Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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Royally Gorgeous Cope


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While most folks in the textile-related blogosphere were watching the Royal Wedding yesterday to catch a glimpse of The Dress, I admit, I was looking for something else: the clerical garb. I figured there’d be a good chance to see some beautiful examples of ecclesiastical embroidery.

The dress was stunning – really beautiful. But did you catch the cope?

Royal Wedding: Archbishop's Cope

Soon as I saw it, I said to meself, “Ahhh. Watts & Company.” The clue is in the trimming! Watts & Co are one of the few ecclesiastical accoutrement suppliers out there who use these glorious trims and fabrics that are reminiscent of Pugin and his buddies. So I jumped over to their website, and sure enough, there were the details.

Royal Wedding: Archbishop's Cope

The description on the Watts & Co website:

The Archbishop’s cope is made from a length of specially woven velvet cloth of gold.

The embroidery of the angel belongs to the Archbishop who asked that it be incorporated into the design. The angel carries a scroll in Latin “Da Gloriam Deo” (Give Glory to God).

The clasp is made of two large amethysts and dates from the early 19th century. It belonged to Archbishop Howley 1828-1848

Well, of course the dress is beautiful – and it has certainly received mounds of media coverage – but I thought the cope was pretty impressive, too. It definitely deserves a mention!

Incidentally, the embroidery looks older – probably removed from another vestment or church good, and appliquéd onto the cloth of gold. This is done frequently these days, when clergy desire a traditional-looking vestment. They find antique vestments or vesture and salvage the embroidery. Although we have plenty of skilled needleworkers in the world today and we have all the necessary supplies to recreate this kind of embroidery, today’s aesthetic in design and execution is not quite the same.

I’d sure love to see that piece up close, wouldn’t you?

Enjoy the weekend!


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(18) Comments

  1. Dear Mary, Yesterday when I was looking at the wedding I also notice the the Cope and all the embroidery that went with it and I thought of you. Through your blog I have learnt a lot about ecclesiastical embroidery and then the next thing that the embroidery of the Kate’s dress was done by the Royal School of Needlework. Another thing you have talked about thus I was looking with new eyes at everything . Thank you for sharing you knowledge with us. Love Elza xxx Ps The Royal School of Needlework also has a Facebook page.

  2. You are right to point out that the archbishop was gloriously attired. He may even have outdone Kate in the Wow factor but the dress suited her style – the lace should not be underestimated – if handmade then it took ages to do!

  3. Oh thank you Mary! I can always count on you to sniff out the details!

    I DID notice the cope and was dying to know it’s story. Thank you for giving us the scoop. I’ll add your link to my post. Awesome!! Susan

  4. I hope that sometime we get to see a close-up of the lace trim made by the Royal School of Needlework and applied to the edges of the veil, shoes, underskirts, etc.

    There’s an announcement on the RSN page that they participated in these parts of the dress, but no photos of the work. (I’d imagine no photography was allowed while the work was being done, given the secrecy surrounding the dress.)

  5. You are right, Mary. I just looked at the Watts website. They are very nice to work with. Did you notice the copes a couple of the other bishops wore? They were cloth of gold. You can actually order that from Watts.Thanks, as always, Mary.
    BTW what embroidery was done on the bride’s dress?

  6. I just happened to see an ad in the Wall Street Journal for a rug, which is handmade, (designed by Diane vonFurstenberg). It is called “Bishop’s Cape” and resembles the reproduced designs on Watts and Co website sold as a textile.The Watts fabrics is pure woven cotton which mimics embroidered silk velvet. This rug is wool and silk.
    Here is the link address:

  7. I did notice the cope and thank you for finding out more about it for us.

    My eyes where 99 per cent on Kate’s dress but there was a lot more to feast our eyes on, I loved every minute of it 🙂

  8. The wedding dress was beautiful Mary, but I too was looking at the clerical robes and would have loved to seen close ups of them on the broadcasts. What we did see here in NZ was a lovely scene, taken well after the wedding, of a clergyman in his clerical garb doing two cartwheels on the red carpet. Now that was a sight worth seeing!

  9. I must confess I too look a good look at the copes, as ecclesiastic embroidery has been one of my interests since I saw some made by an Australian woman a few years ago. To my shame I can’t remember her name, Christa ?, I think. Her work was exquisite. Back to The Wedding, the Dean of the Abbey’s cope was, as someone else has noted, was made of cloth of gold and the compere did say the name of the maker which I didn’t hear, but it too was hand embroidered.

  10. Dear Mary. You’ve got me very well trained in only nine months of discovering your website. I too looked very hard at the ecclesiastical garments – something I never gave a thought to in the past. Found myself viewing all the uniforms in the pageantry with a much more educated eye and an appreciation of the craftmanship involved. Thank you for making me aware. Just have to add that I am so proud of how well the day was managed and marked. Lynne Humphrey UK

  11. Dear mary

    Yes now that you have pointed the Archbishops gown out it is stunning thanks for the information


  12. Dear Mary,I know all about the robes the priests wear and the beautiful embroidery, I was a cook and seamstress for a catholic retreat house. I worked there 6 years and not only cooked meals for the sisters and priests and retreatants but made the sisters habits and did repairs and mending on the beautiful robes. Some of them were very very old and I was honored to be able to handle and mend them and I did wear white gloves when I handled them to do the mending. Carol Artz

  13. Hello, Garry, Mary has been busy and might have missed your comment. I let her know about it. The Watts website says the Archbishop’s cope is made with custom made fabric. But, it would be possible to find something similar that you would like. Watts and several other companies have beautiful brocades. For the hood I would use a very tightly woven fabric. Since I learned Japanese embroidery, I would be inclined to use a Japanese obi silk in gold. It could be embroidered in real or imitation metal threads and, of course, real metals are more expensive, but last longer. Also, the design would take a while to develop. THe embroidery itself would probably take about 6 months. I just wanted to give you an idea of what goes into the process.
    Prices would depend on all the things above. You can communicate with Mary & she’ll get ahold of me through that. AnneG

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